Home > Media, Social Issues > The Paul Henry Show – A Review

The Paul Henry Show – A Review

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paul henry show TV3 website page (2)

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Far from being “television history”, TV3’s new “Paul Henry Show” on 27 January was a bit of the old chat show; the usual weather graphics; a mix of interviews and on-the-scene reporting; plus a curiously dated style of reading the news.

I must admit, I was sceptical. Henry’s track record in the electronic media left a lot to be desired, with episodes of racism and juvenile behaviour. He appealed to a certain sector of our society – mainly the racists and juvenile-minded adults. For the rest of us, he was a major *facepalm* in our lives and people were happy to switch off.

On 16 January, as TV3 began to promo Henry’s up-coming show, I blogged,

Henry can do outrageous, tasteless, shocking. It’s not that hard to cater for society’s lowest common denominator. Ignorance, juvenile “humour”, and  tastelessness require no thought whatsoever. Just check out Courtney Place in Wellington or Queen St in Auckland, in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings, for evidence of that kind of behaviour.

But I’ve also seen Henry’s better, more serious  side, where he has hosted intelligent current affairs programmes with maturity, dignity,  and professionalism. That side of Paul Henry is one that treats viewers, and his own profession, with respect.

I’m not expecting a sombre, sullen, Henry – fresh from a funeral or roadside crash.

But is it too much to expect maturity and  dignity from a man who is quite capable of delivering a professional performance?

Paul Henry has talent. I would love to see that in his new show. I would love to see TV3 encouraging that talent. And I would love to be part of an audience to appreciate it.

So Paul, I look forward to a solid, professional, engaging, performance from you.

Just leave the clown nose at home this time. Ok?

So, how was Henry’s first performance?

Firstly, it’s worthwhile pointing out that Henry had a co-presenter (or straight-person), in the form of Janika ter  Ellen. She was the “news” reader and weather presenter (off screen to weather graphics).

She read her news from paper (as well as an off-screen tele-prompter) – something of a ‘retro’ feeling – reminding me very much of news-readers from, literally, the last century;

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phillip sherry

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The ‘newsyness’ of the material ranged from a once-over-lightly of serious issues to the superficial; Lorde’s Grammy achievement; David Cunliffe’s State of the Nation speech; an explosion in Invercargill; Mt Etna erupting; inter-family rivalry, North Korean style; the Syrian civil war; ongoing unrest in the Ukraine; and a strange item on two pidgeons released by the Pope, and prompty attacked by a crow and seagull… (Slow news night, perhaps?)

As Ter Ellen finished reading the news and weather, Henry jumped in and made light of the pidgeon-vs-crow-and-seagull story, and referred to “If you were Jesus…”

At this point, it appeared that  the old, obnoxious, Henry was about to stage a sudden re-appearance and launch into a bad-taste comedy-routine… It came close. I nearly switched off… But persevered. Henry reigned himself in.

Just as well – a few thousand other hands were poised with TV Remotes, ready to switch channels or switch right off. Janika ter  Ellen looked decidedly uncomfortable, squirming ever-so-slightly in her chair. I could see her thinking, hoping, praying, “Please, please, please, Paul; don’t say something dumb. Don’t do it; don’t do it; don’t do it!”

The moment passed. Henry pulled back from the Chasm of Bad Taste. Viewers thumbs moved away from the channel switch. Janika ter  Ellen breathed relief. The show’s producer popped another med for angina.

As well as the superficiality of the news, a Paul Henry coffee cup was plonked in front of ter Ellen, distracting the viewers attention. If that was some kind of “product placement”, it was a dumb move. If it was an accident – watch that kind of stuff next time, please.

The “news” was followed in quick succession with an interview with David Cunliffe. There was discussion of his State of the Nation speech; oil drilling safety; royalties; Norway; and coalition partners.

Not a bad interview. Cunliffe responded well; confidently; and was well advised. But again, once-over-lightly, with easy questions, and no follow-ups.

Then on to World “News”; an Australian base-jumper killed; UK’s feral cats; and a pregnant brain-dead woman in the US having her life-support switched off. The stories were off-beat and more what you’d expect from Youtube than a serious media organisation.

Then into an interview with John Key, with a permanent – and oh-so-obviously fake – smile cemented onto his face. The Prime Minister must be a very worried man. I haven’t seen such a fake smile since the last door-to-door sales-girl came to my door suggesting I switch power-cos.

Henry quizzed Key on playing golf with Obama; what did they chat about (with a non-committal and vague response from Key); potential coalition partners; the Maori Party; would he trust Peter Dunne (yes); would he trust Winston Peters (evasive response);  would he trust Kim Dotcom (firm, decisive “NO!”); and would he trust Len Brown (a very diplomatic answer – but then Key isn’t an attractive woman).

That was followed by a bizarre contest; first prize a very shiny new car. Key had to name ten native birds in ten seconds. He got four or five.

It was a jarring moment, incongruent with a supposedly news/current affairs programme. Had we entered into a light entertainment segment. If so, it was a seamless switch.

Then we got given a “story” on Labour MP Jacinda Ardern. Evidently she “moonlights as a D.J? Vaguely interesting. The suggestion was that it was a means by which a politician could connect with young people in a social setting? If so, that wasn’t original at all. The Alliance did something similar in 1996, with young cadres visiting night-clubs with “Alliance” badges and other election paraphernalia.

Overall, it was a restrained, almost mature performance from Paul Henry (except for the pidgeon thing. As infotainment it was watchable.

As serious news/current affairs, it is a step backwards. Whether it was a miscalculation to deliver “lighter stories” at that time slot or someone at TV3 not doing their job properly, it was hardly in the class of John Campbell or Paul Holmes.

It’s major failing is that the Show tries to be all things; serious; newsworthy; informative; light-hearted; chatty; irreverant. It doesn’t work. And there were enough moments that ‘jarred’ as to make the viewing experience less than coherent.

Would I watch it in preference to TV1 News? Probably not. Not unless there was a particularly topical interview.

Can it do better? Without doubt.

Can it do worse? With Paul Henry, what do you think?

On a Frankly Speaking Rating, where 1 is Godawful-never-to-be-seen-again-by-Human-eyes to 10, This-is-unmissable-Walter-Cronkite-BBC stuff, I’d rate this a 6.

Unless the Show confirms which path it wants to be  on – serious news/current affairs – or  – light infotainment/chat show – it will not appeal to either audience demographic who demands one or the other.

However on a new Frankly Speaking Rating for Paul Henry’s self-discipline and attempt at professionalism; 8/10.

Indeed, perhaps that was the real news story of the night..

Postscript

Having watched the Paul Henry Show again (28 January), I can confirm that he has not failed to live down to expectations. His inanities came through with usual juvenile predictability. He has obviously “loosened up” from the previous night, and returned to true form. I found it tedious.

It may work on 7 Days – but with him, on his show,  it falls flat and stinks. Much like an Arctic cod.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 January 2014.

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Additional

Paul Henry Show: David Cunliffe talks State of the Nation with Paul Henry

Previous related blogpost

The Paul Henry Show – Insulting or Insightful?

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No retreat, No surrender, Vote!

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

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  1. Deb Kean
    4 February 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you for watching so that I didn’t have to! :D
    Although I am amazed that Etna;s eruption was mentioned, afaik no other NZ media thought it worthy of mention…
    Deb

    • 4 February 2014 at 4:15 pm

      Heh heh heh…

      No worries. All part of the service, Debs! :-D

  2. lolitas brother
    4 February 2014 at 6:59 pm

    When people like you MacKasy come in with your throw down insults and bleeding social hatred:
    like this :

    ‘Right wing trolls; a breed noted for their cowardice; redneck bigotry; and a propensity to show “the “courage of their convictions” by hiding behind anonymous pseudonyms’

    “They can’t cope with the realisation that this is happening in our own society, and try to dismiss the reality of these problems by blaming the victims.
    It’s the old “she-wore-a-mini-skirt-so-deserved-to-be-raped” argument, but transferred to another problem confronting our nation”

    we realise that the Daily blog and the Standard has to be there, to cater for the lower class, and the venomous drivel of hatred and resentment that you people write.

    • 4 February 2014 at 7:03 pm

      Well, Anonymous Username “lolitas brother” – you’ve certainly proven my point very nicely about rightwing rednecks hiding behind anonymity.

    • Andy K
      5 February 2014 at 12:09 am

      A lot of “love” demonstrated in this comment.

      The use of “lower class” has condescending connotations that suggests much about the author’s mentality.

      The defiance that the commenter and kindred minds find unpalatable is a sign that not everyone is prepared to surrender themselves to the hoax that particular people are superior over others.

      Those who seek greater control and power and generously distribute undignified treatment upon their perceived inferiors, will realise the consequences of their folly when they persue it too far.

      • 5 February 2014 at 12:32 am

        Indeed, Andy.

        I normally don’t waste my timer with anonymous right wing trolls like Lolitas Brother. But I thought his comments were so apropos that they merited publication.

        This is what real anger/hate looks like; anger and hate generated by guilt, brought on by those who can’t stand child poverty regularly thrust in their faces.

        Because it reminds them they’re doing absolutely nothing about it.

    • 5 February 2014 at 12:29 am

      Some context regarding Anonymous Troll, “Loliltas Brother’s” comment; http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2014/02/04/guest-blog-what-happened-when-i-spoke-up-for-the-rights-of-others/

  3. Priss
    4 February 2014 at 8:24 pm

    @ lolitas brother – Oh, go suck up to John Key somewhere else, troll. Your pro-National rants on other blogs are fairly well known by now.

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